written by Metro Music Makers instructor Justin Boyd
You are a musician who is really in love with music, and you really want to improve. You have the drive in you to always get better and grow. You see that many people accomplish being “okay” at their craft, but very few people accomplish greatness. What sets those people apart?
The definition of craft is an activity involving skill in making things or requiring special skills in different areas. The skill could be many different things, but we as musicians sometime have a hard time understanding how to make ourselves skilled at what we are doing. Every time we sit down at our instrument, we are working on our skill and are crafting ourselves. We are creating something new that we didn’t know before, and then we are taking that and trying to perfect it.
The goal isn’t just knowing information; it’s perfecting the information you are soaking in. But how do you perfect your craft?
- Start slow in practicing.
I teach kids and adults all the time who have a really hard time practicing. They do really well in the lesson time and learn enough to get through the lesson, and we agree to a practice schedule for them that week. Then I come the next week, and they haven’t touched their instrument since the last time I was there. Yes, time is flying these days, and we are all busy. So what I’ve been telling people lately is to just start off by trying to touch their instrument once a week for 10 minutes. That sounds pretty easy, right? If you can just begin to form some type of practicing habit, you’ll immediately see results. That 10 minutes will turn into longer times of practicing, and then that will turn into more days you’ll practice, and before you know it, you’ll start to see major progress. So start slow in practicing, and just form the habit of practicing.
- Challenge yourself to grow.
This is a big one because often the student is just waiting for the teacher to show them something to do or give them the next thing to learn. Some of the coolest moments I have in lessons are when I show up and little Johnny says, “Hey, I heard this song and thought it was awesome. I tried to play it, but couldn’t figure it out. Can we learn that song?”
There are some small things you can do to challenge yourself to grow. You can set aside extra practice times. You can look up easy songs you want to learn on YouTube and try them. You can listen to your favorite music all the time. This helps a great deal, because just by listening to music you love and picking out the instrument you play, you will get inspired and want to learn to play that song. The more you love and want to learn songs, the more you’ll grow, so challenge yourself.
- Have a passion for your instrument.
There’s nothing cooler in life than having a passion for something. I believe that passion will be the one and only thing that will drive us to perfect our craft. I love the drums. I have been playing for 26 years, and I still practice 10 hours a week because I’m passionate about getting better. Having passion is the key ingredient to getting better at your instrument. You have to experience times when you’re learning and growing on your instrument and you’re so excited that you’re actually doing it. Those times will turn into you wanting to learn and grow more. Find you favorite band or musician and get passionate about the stuff they are putting out. The bottom line: you have to love what you are doing and that will make you passionate to want to grow.
In order for us to perfect our craft, we have to put our hands to whatever it is we are trying to get better at. Being a musician isn’t easy and takes a lot of hard work, but the reward is great. All the lessons and practicing will pay off one day, and you’ll be so glad that you hung in there and learned. You’ll be glad that you put your hands to something challenging and proud of what you accomplished. Be encouraged: you can do this!